TOPEKA, Kan. (Oct. 11, 2008) – In his 17th Runoffs start, Peter Zekert, of Maryland Heights, Mo., claimed his first National Title, winning GT-Lite at the 45th SCCA National Championship Runoffs. Peter Shadowen, of Loxahatchee, Fla., and Chad Bacon, of Kingsport, Tenn., completed the podium at Heartland Park Topeka.
Starting third, Zekert became the luckiest man in the race before the green flag even flew, as the entire front row disappeared before the race could begin. First, polesitter Christopher Bovis lost power to his No. 1 Goodyear/Honda/JDM Motorsports Honda CRX on the pace lap, when a piece of rubber became lodged in the air intake. Bovis’ disabled car, stopped on the back stretch, forced the starter to wave off the start so the safety crew could remove the vehicle. Then, as the field reformed and approached the final corner before the front straight, second-place qualifier Brian Linn, of Hermosa Beach, Calif., pulled his No. 21 Hoosier Tires/CW Horton GC MG Midget into pitlane. When the green flag waved, Zekert became the polesitter.
“I felt bad for Chris Bovis,” Zekert said. “Chris and I run together and our plan was to tuck behind either one of us and make a freight train. Wshen he dropped out, I thought I’d just follow in behind Brian. Then Brian pulled into the pits!”
Shadown’s No. 72 Goodyear/RedLine/Road-n-Race Honda CRX followed Zekert into Turn One. Shadowen was soon passed by the No. 6 FMR/Goodyear/Rebello Racing Nissan Sentra SE-R of Lans Stout, from Cornelius, Ore., who would then set his sights on Zekert. Stout kept the pressure on Zekert until lap 13, when a driving error caused the rear-end of his car to get loose and send him on an off-course excursion through the Turn Four grass.
Zekert was never challenged again in his No. 45 Booble/Goodyear/Red Line Nissan 200SX SE-R crossing the finish line 4.573 seconds ahead of second place Shadowen.
“Lance Stout must have got a great couple of laps, so I just said ‘I’m going to run good, clean laps, not crazy, because I don’t want to spin in the lead, that would be embarrassing,’’ Zekert said. “I just kept going and one time, Lans tried to look inside of me between three and four. I know when you do that and you’re not all the way inside of the car, it makes four so difficult, and I saw in my mirror Lans was spinning. Then, I just told myself it was like any national here, and just clicked off lap after lap. It feels unbelievable.”
Like Zekert, Shadowen benefited from attrition in the 18-lap race as well. After pressuring Pete Peterson’s No. 98 Toyota/Goodyear/Valvoline/Pens Toyota Celica for several laps, Peterson pulled into pit lane on lap 12, handing third place to Shadowen. Following Stout’s Lap 13 mistake, Shadowen was promoted to second, which he held for the remaining five laps.
Starting ninth, Bacon had a tremendous race in the No. 18 TRD/Goodyear/Robinson RacingToyota Tercel. Bacon spent most of the race dicing with Jim Hargrove’s No. 38 Race Energy/Analytic Systems Honda CRX, winning the battle after Hargrove retired and moved up to third with Peterson and Stout’s troubles.
William Gilcrease, of Costa Mesa, Calif., finished fourth, followed by Topeka’s own Don Christman in fifth.
Daniel Stalzer, of Plainfield, Ill., earned the Sunoco Hard Charger Award for advancing 11 positions during the race in the No. 41 Toyota Corolla.
The GT-Lite race will air on SPEED Wednesday, Jan. 14, at noon (EST).
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